Friday, January 31, 2014

Contraception and the Church

There has been a lot of talk lately about contraception and what the Church should say about it...

In the Episcopal Church: "We believe that contraception and birth control are matters of individual conscience." is how I've seen it on the web and I think that is a practical way of putting our beliefs.

Other churches, most notable the Roman Catholic Church disagree.  Even some businesses claim it infringes on their beliefs. (Although, I find for profit companies arguments on this to be quite lacking in credibility.)

Rachel Held Evans has an important and thought provoking blogpost on this:

Read it.  I think she is spot on.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Telling our Story

Their story, yours and mine -- it’s what we all carry with us on this trip we take, and we owe it to each other to respect our stories and learn from them. ~ William Carlos Williams
The story of St. Peter’s Episcopal Church began in 1802 when the first group of Episcopalians gathered in the town of New Stratford (the first name of Monroe) and began to build a church from which they could have their own worship space and reach out to their neighbors. Since those early days, St. Peter’s Church has been a life giving presence in the Monroe community and beyond. Here are some snap shots of our story in 2013.

The year began with a new mission opportunity for St. Peter’s Church, helping a tiny village and a small church in faraway Mozambique build a nursery school and water collection system. We met Bishop Sengulane and his wife and began to learn about a partnership that we had chosen with the community of Megumeto. We decided on a goal of $5,000 and gave our first check to the Bishop. The children joined in and sold lemonade at our Parish Tag Sale. In the fall, they held a bake sale after services. Everyone in the community joined in and helped raise $5,000 by the end of January 2014. We applied for and received a $10,000 grant from our Diocese of CT to begin work on phase II, to help the community build a well.

The children helped us in our worship, as they, along with our adult choir, sang praises to God over the course of the year. Our Junior Choir reminded us all of the beauty of God’s creation and how to sing a joyful song to our God. At Christmastime, they helped us remember the story of our salvation, of Jesus who was born for us in a humble stable, and how to share the beauty of Christmas with everyone.

Our adults gathered to explore questions of faith and grapple with the important issues of our time (e.g. immigration) through book discussion and our film & food nights. Opportunities both online and in community gave parishioners the chance to work on our fall bible study: the Gospel of Mark. And of course, whenever we gathered, there was always plenty of good food to be found!

Out of that abundance we have, we reached out in love to our neighbors! A Girl’s Night Out in November collected funds for the town’s Project Warmth. We made a Thanksgiving meal for Chapel on the Green and in frigid temperatures made sure that those in need on the New Haven green had a delicious hot meal and were able to get knitted scarves from Knit One, Pray Too and donated coats from our parish to help them stay warm.

In our times of fellowship and love, we gathered as a community at hockey and baseball games, we tasted the finest wines and beers, we enjoyed the company of friend and stranger, offering the hospitality of St. Peter’s Church. Our largest fundraisers were also our largest opportunities as a community to come together to serve and love, our annual Fish Fry lovingly prepared by even injured parishioners & our annual Apple Festival with a tour bus visit, were bigger than ever!

Worship brought us together with neighbors nearby and far away. We gathered to sing, to pray, to hear God at work in our world and reflect on God with us.

The story of St. Peter’s Church in 2013 was a story filled with hope, with love and with a real sense of the blessings that God has given to us to share with everyone. It was a story that every member of the parish contributed too, for every member, every friend, shared a line in the story. A story that continues today in our mission to welcome everyone with God’s love on their journey of faith, making strangers into friends!

(Paper edition included pictures with each paragraph.)

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Learning from Trauma

There was an excellent article on the Sojourners Blog: A New Normal: Ten Things I've Learned About Trauma by Catherine Woodiwiss
I wasn’t really expecting painful things to happen to me.

I knew that pain was a part of life, but — thanks in part to a peculiar blend of “God-has-a-plan” Southern roots, a suburban “Midwestern nice” upbringing, and a higher education in New England stoicism — I managed to skate by for quite some time without having to experience it.

After a handful of traumas in the last five years, things look different now. Trauma upends everything we took for granted, including things we didn’t know we took for granted. And many of these realities I wish I’d known when I first encountered them. So, while the work of life and healing continues, here are ten things I’ve learned about trauma along the way:
1. Trauma permanently changes us.
Read the whole list of 10 at the blog.  It is well worth reading.

David Brooks has written his own article in the NY Times on the blogpost:

The Art of Presence by David Brooks
Tragedy has twice visited the Woodiwiss family. In 2008, Anna Woodiwiss, then 27, was working for a service organization in Afghanistan. On April 1, she went horseback riding and was thrown, dying from her injuries. In 2013, her younger sister Catherine, then 26, was biking to work from her home in Washington. She was hit by a car and her face was severely smashed up. She has endured and will continue to endure a series of operations. For a time, she breathed and ate through a tube, unable to speak. The recovery is slow.

The victims of trauma, she writes in a remarkable blog post for Sojourners, experience days “when you feel like a quivering, cowardly shell of yourself, when despair yawns as a terrible chasm, when fear paralyzes any chance for pleasure. This is just a fight that has to be won, over and over and over again.”

Her mother, Mary, talks about the deep organic grief that a parent feels when they have lost one child and seen another badly injured, a pain felt in bones and fiber.

But suffering is a teacher. And, among other things, the Woodiwisses drew a few lessons, which at least apply to their own experience, about how those of us outside the zone of trauma might better communicate with those inside the zone. There are no uniformly right responses, but their collective wisdom, some of it contained in Catherine’s Sojourners piece, is quite useful...
 Read his whole article here.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Remembering Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

What is the best way to honor the legacy of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King? How would the civil rights leader, activist and clergyman want people to remember him?

In 1994, the United States Congress answered that question when it passed the King Holiday and Service Act, designating the third Monday in January as a national Day of Service. The Act asked
Americans to see the day not just as time off from work or school, but as an opportunity to honor King’s legacy by taking part in community service projects. In short, they were asked to “make it a day on, not a day off.”

On January 20, 2014 millions of Americans across the country — including many Episcopalians -- will conduct food drives, paint schools and community centers, recruit mentors for needy youth, and bring meals to homebound neighbors, among many other projects. The King Day of Service brings together people who might not ordinarily meet, breaks down barriers, leads to better understanding and ongoing relationships, and gives organizations an opportunity to recruit new volunteers for their work. Participation in the King Day of Service has grown steadily over the past decade, with hundreds of thousands of Americans each year engaging in projects. Episcopal congregations throughout the nation will take part this year in the Day of Service, many of them in cooperation with other churches and community organizations.

Information and photos from the Corporation for National Community Service. (from Episcopal News Service]


Almighty God, by the hand of Moses your servant you led your people out of slavery, and made them free at last; Grant that your Church, following the example of your prophet Martin Luther King, may resist oppression in the name of your love, and may secure for all your children the blessed liberty of the Gospel of Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Renewal of Baptismal Vows

As we remember Jesus' baptism, let us also remember our own...

The Renewal of Baptismal Vows (from the BCP)

Do you reaffirm your renunciation of evil and renew your commitment to Jesus Christ?
People      I do.

Celebrant  Do you believe in God the Father?
People        I believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth.

Celebrant  Do you believe in Jesus Christ, the Son of God?
People        I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord.
                  He was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit
                     and born of the Virgin Mary.
                  He suffered under Pontius Pilate,
                     was crucified, died, and was buried.
                  He descended to the dead.
                  On the third day he rose again.
                  He ascended into heaven,
                     and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
                  He will come again to judge the living and the dead.

Celebrant  Do you believe in God the Holy Spirit?
People        I believe in the Holy Spirit,
                   the holy catholic Church,
                   the communion of saints,
                   the forgiveness of sins,
                   the resurrection of the body,
                   and the life everlasting.

Celebrant  Will you continue in the apostles' teaching and  fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in the prayers?
People        I will, with God's help.

Celebrant  Will you persevere in resisting evil, and, whenever you fall into sin, repent and return to the Lord?
People        I will, with God's help.

Celebrant  Will you proclaim by word and example the Good News of God in Christ?
People        I will, with God’s help.

Celebrant  Will you seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving your neighbor as yourself?
People        I will, with God’s help.

Celebrant  Will you strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being?
People        I will, with God's help.

The Celebrant concludes the Renewal of Vows as follows

May Almighty God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has given us a new birth by water and the Holy Spirit, and bestowed upon us the forgiveness of sins, keep us in eternal life by his grace, in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.

Baptism of Jesus Sermon

O God of grace, by the power of the Holy Spirit you have given us new life in the waters of baptism; strengthen us to live in righteousness and true holiness, that we may grow into the likeness of your Son, Jesus Christ. Amen.

What do you have in common with…
  • St Francis & St Patrick
  • William Wilberforce (The great Abolitionist of England),
  • Bernard Mizeki (Catechist & Martyr of Mozambique)
  • Martin Luther King, Jr./Billy Graham/Mother Theresa
  • Pope Francis/PB Katharine Jefferts Schori
It’s your baptism. It’s what makes us a Christian.
“There is one Body and one Spirit; There is one hope in God's call to us. One Lord, one Faith, one Baptism; One God and Father of all.”
These words from Paul’s letter to the Ephesians (chapter 4), remind us that whoever we are, wherever we were baptized, we were all baptized into one body that is Christ’s, and it is by God’s Spirit that we are sealed in baptism and made Christ’s own forever. For there is one Lord, one faith and one baptism.

And just as Jesus heard the words after his baptism, “This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.” This is also true of us. That each of us, you and I, are also beloved by God, baptized into Jesus life, death and resurrection.

And it’s important that we remember our baptism, give thanks that we are beloved too and show it in our lives! I know I have told this story before but its one I love…
Two friends are having lunch at a local restaurant when one woman is distracted by a scene two tables over.

"What's the matter?" her friend asks.

"See that couple over there? We're sharing the same waiter except they're being so demanding that he barely has time for anyone else. Look at how they turn up their noses at everything he brings them."

"Maybe their order just isn't to their liking."

"No, that's not it at all. I was a waitress in college and I know the game. They're just trying to berate that kid into a free lunch."

Just then, they watch as the manager walks over to the table and stands next to the waiter. The couple complains loudly about the food and service. The manager takes the check from the waiter and motions him away.

"See what I mean?" the first woman says.

The embarrassed waiter comes over to the women's table. "Is there anything else I can get you?" he asks, his eyes downcast as he places the check on the table between the two women.
The former waitress snatches the check before her friend can even look at it and pulls out several bills from her purse. She hands everything to the waiter.

"Keep the change."

"But ma'am, that's . . ."

She takes the young man's hand and squeezes it. She looks him in the eye and says, "I know the kind of afternoon you're having. You're a terrific waiter. And you've earned every dime of this. So don't argue with an old lady who's been there." [From The Other Ninety Percent by Robert K. Cooper.]
It was a simple gesture, a tip. And yet she honored that waiter and she honored herself.
“You are the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.”
Our baptism is the root of our lives. We are part of the household of faith. But with it, comes responsibility too, for so many in our world, do not see themselves as the apple of God’s eye, as beloved by their creator.

So it comes to us, to remember that we are beloved by God and in turn remind others, just as the old lady did to the young waiter one afternoon.

For it is our vocation, our calling as the baptized, to live into what Christ has done for us and to live that in this world.

As William Stringfellow put it in his first book:
“Thus the vocation of the baptized person is a simple thing: it is to love from day to day, whatever that day brings, in this extraordinary unity, in this reconciliation with all people and all things, in this knowledge that death has no more power, in this truth of the Resurrection. It does not really matter what exactly a Christian does from day to day. What matters is that in whatever the Christian does it is done in honor of the triumph of Christ over death and, therefore, in honor of his or her own life, given by God and restored to each in Christ, and in honor of the life into which all people and all things are called. The only thing that really matters is to live in Christ instead of death.” (from Instead of Death)
May we remember our baptism this day, remember that we too are beloved, and share that with our world, just as the saints of old did, so that we may live in Christ instead of death. Amen.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Baseball Hall of Fame - Sinners or Saints?

There has been a lot of discussion lately regarding the Baseball Hall of Fame and who gets voted in and those who do not.  Lots of talk about "character", cheating and who did or did not use.

Two very good articles are here:

And a good follow-up

But I keep wondering what is the purpose of the Hall of Fame?

The HOF has people in it who have cheated, whose character in any light is terrible and many are missing who should be in it who have nothing to do with the whole "steroid era."

It is missing people who have done incredible things on the ball diamond.

There are sinners and saints in the HOF; I think many more should go in, including Bonds, Clemens and Pete Rose (the player).  Its time to have the best players inducted.  If they have done something to negativly impact the game, then name it.

Monday, January 6, 2014

The Epiphany

The Feast of the Epiphany (eve of Jan. 5- sundown January 6th) celebrates the close of the Christmas season, (12th Night) and the shining of the light of Christ out to all nations. We recall the visit of the Magi from afar to the Holy Family, who went home by another route to become proclaimers of God’s Good News in Christ. (Matthew 2)

Since ancient times in some places, this was the day on which the dates of the moveable feasts (e.g., Ash Wednesday & Easter) during the coming year were announced. Also in some parts of the ancient Christian world on this feast, incense and chalk (symbols of the feast) were blessed which worshipers might take home for an annual Epiphany blessing of their home - as we do today. This is the tradition:

Sometime during the Epiphany season, a household gathers with friends for a festive meal at which the incense is burned, and a member of the household uses the blessed chalk to mark the main doorway with the year and the initials C, M and B which were understood both to signify the names of the three wise men, (Caspar, Balthazar, and Melchior) and more importantly “Christus Mansionem Benedicat, (Christ bless this house):

20 + C + M + B + 14

This prayer is then said:

May all who come to our home this year rejoice to find Christ living among us; and may we seek to serve Christ in everyone we meet. Amen.

The Work of Christmas

In the great words of Howard Thurman:
"When the song of the angels is stilled,
when the star in the sky is gone,
when the kings and princes are home,
when the shepherds are back with the flocks,
then the work of Christmas begins:
to find the lost,
to heal those broken in spirit,
to feed the hungry,
to release the oppressed,
to rebuild the nations,
to bring peace among all peoples,
to make music with the heart

And to radiate the light of Christ,
every day, every way, in all that we do and say.
Then the work of Christmas begins.”

2nd Sunday of Christmas Sermon

O Gracious God, you revealed your Son to the nations by the guidance of a star. Lead us toward your light, draw us beyond the limits which this world imposes, to the life where Your Spirit makes all life complete, and help us offer our gifts like the Magi once did. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Three Kings came riding from far away,
Melchior and Gaspar and Baltasar;
Three Wise Men out of the East were they,
And they travelled by night and they slept by day,
For their guide was a beautiful, wonderful star…

The star was so beautiful, large and clear,
That all the other stars of the sky
Became a white mist in the atmosphere,
And by this they knew that the coming was near
Of the Prince foretold in the prophecy.

Three caskets they bore on their saddle-bows,
Three caskets of gold with golden keys;
Their robes were of crimson silk with rows
Of bells and pomegranates and furbelows,
Their turbans like blossoming almond-trees.

And so the Three Kings rode into the West,
Through the dusk of the night, over hill and dell,
And sometimes they nodded with beard on breast,
And sometimes talked, as they paused to rest,
With the people they met at some wayside well.

"Of the child that is born," said Baltasar,
"Good people, I pray you, tell us the news;
For we in the East have seen his star,
And have ridden fast, and have ridden far,
To find and worship the King of the Jews."

And the people answered, "You ask in vain;
We know of no King but Herod the Great!"
They thought the Wise Men were men insane,
As they spurred their horses across the plain,
Like riders in haste, who cannot wait.

And when they came to Jerusalem,
Herod the Great, who had heard this thing,
Sent for the Wise Men and questioned them;
And said, "Go down unto Bethlehem,
And bring me tidings of this new king."

So they rode away; and the star stood still,
The only one in the grey of morn;
Yes, it stopped --it stood still of its own free will,
Right over Bethlehem on the hill,
The city of David, where Christ was born.

And the Three Kings rode through the gate and the guard,
Through the silent street, till their horses turned
And neighed as they entered the great inn-yard;
But the windows were closed, and the doors were barred,
And only a light in the stable burned.

And cradled there in the scented hay,
In the air made sweet by the breath of kine,
The little child in the manger lay,
The child, that would be king one day
Of a kingdom not human, but divine.

His mother Mary of Nazareth
Sat watching beside his place of rest,
Watching the even flow of his breath,
For the joy of life and the terror of death
Were mingled together in her breast.

They laid their offerings at his feet:
The gold was their tribute to a King,
The frankincense, with its odor sweet,
Was for the Priest, the Paraclete,
The myrrh for the body's burying.

And the mother wondered and bowed her head,
And sat as still as a statue of stone,
Her heart was troubled yet comforted,
Remembering what the Angel had said
Of an endless reign and of David's throne.

Then the Kings rode out of the city gate,
With a clatter of hoofs in proud array;
But they went not back to Herod the Great,
For they knew his malice and feared his hate,
And returned to their homes by another way.

The Three Kings is a poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, written in the 19th Century.

I decided to read the whole poem to you because I believe it helps us remember the story in a very full way. Magi from the East (Later tradition would make them kings) but the term really means wise men, astrologers who were watching the sky for certain signs, who made a journey, a journey into lands they did not know because of the appearance of a particular star. The importance is that Gentiles, not Jews come looking for the baby, and the baby has made the local power structure very nervous.

The wise men search for the new King but people only know of King Herod, so they follow the star, a new king is on the way, and they continue the journey until their perseverance and dare I say faith pay off and in a stable, where a lamp is lit, they find Mary & Joseph and Jesus.

It is this whole story, both miraculous and yet very much our own, that reminds us that the world that Jesus was born into, is the same world we live in now. Poverty, death, murder, political infighting, take place now as it did then. And innocent people are often caught in the middle. And into this very chaos, God interceded on our behalf; even with the power of Rome & Herod in place, God comes to us in a helpless baby in a lonely stable. The light came into the darkness.

On this day, as we remember the journey of the Magi, I think we can learn from their journey, because it is like our own faith journey. As TS Eliot put it in his Journey of the Magi: “'A cold coming we had of it, Just the worst time of the year For a journey, and such a long journey: The ways deep and the weather sharp, The very dead of winter.' (Not very different from our weather today!)

The Magi traveled together, trusted their knowledge even as they recognized that there was much they didn’t know. When in a dream they are told to go home by another way, they do it, they are willing to adjust their journey and keep being directed, led and pushed in a new direction. They are willing to adjust it together, just as they had done their whole trip.

We are invited on our journey together, to seek out the Christ child in our midst. To follow the star, the light, just as they did. To listen to what God has given to us, in Scripture & in Nature. To understand that our journey will have its ups and downs. It will not always go easy. Through prayer & reflection we may decide to go a different way, a new road. The powers that be may be against us. But together, we will find the Christ in our midst, and offer the gifts we have to give. For Christmas is more than our coming to the manger to pay homage, it is also how we give our gifts to the world in the name of the one who we follow. In the great words of Howard Thurman:
"When the song of the angels is stilled,
when the star in the sky is gone,
when the kings and princes are home,
when the shepherds are back with the flocks,
then the work of Christmas begins:
to find the lost,
to heal those broken in spirit,
to feed the hungry,
to release the oppressed,
to rebuild the nations,
to bring peace among all peoples,
to make music with the heart”

May we radiate the Light of Christ, every day, in every way, in all that we do and in all that we say. Giving the gifts that God has given to us. For it is then the work of Christmas has begun in us and our world. Amen.


YEAR 2014

Dear brothers and sisters,
the glory of the Lord has shone upon us,
and shall ever be manifest among us, until the day of his return.
Through the rhythms of times and seasons
let us celebrate the mysteries of salvation.

Let us recall the year’s culmination, the Easter Triduum of the Lord:
his last supper, his crucifixion, his burial, and his rising celebrated
between the evening of the 17th of April.
and the evening of the 19th of April  (Easter Vigil - 1st Service of Easter).

Each Easter— as on each Sunday—
the Holy Church makes present the great and saving deed
by which Christ has for ever conquered sin and death.

From Easter are reckoned all the days we keep holy.
Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent, will occur on the 5th of March.
The Ascension of the Lord will be commemorated on the 1st of June.
Pentecost, the joyful conclusion of the season of Easter,
will be celebrated on the 8th of June.
And this year the First Sunday of Advent will be on the 30th of November.

Likewise the pilgrim Church proclaims the Passover of Christ
in the feasts of the Holy Mother of God, in the feasts of the Apostles and Saints,
and in the commemoration of the faithful departed.

To Jesus Christ, who was, who is, and who is to come,
Lord of time and history,
be endless praise, for ever and ever.  Amen.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

The Journey Of The Magi

'A cold coming we had of it,
Just the worst time of the year
For a journey, and such a long journey:
The ways deep and the weather sharp,
The very dead of winter.'
And the camels galled, sorefooted, refractory,
Lying down in the melting snow.
There were times we regretted
The summer palaces on slopes, the terraces,
And the silken girls bringing sherbet.
Then the camel men cursing and grumbling
and running away, and wanting their liquor and women,
And the night-fires going out, and the lack of shelters,
And the cities hostile and the towns unfriendly
And the villages dirty and charging high prices:
A hard time we had of it.
At the end we preferred to travel all night,
Sleeping in snatches,
With the voices singing in our ears, saying
That this was all folly.

Then at dawn we came down to a temperate valley,
Wet, below the snow line, smelling of vegetation;
With a running stream and a water-mill beating the darkness,
And three trees on the low sky,
And an old white horse galloped away in the meadow.
Then we came to a tavern with vine-leaves over the lintel,
Six hands at an open door dicing for pieces of silver,
And feet kiking the empty wine-skins.
But there was no information, and so we continued
And arriving at evening, not a moment too soon
Finding the place; it was (you might say) satisfactory.

All this was a long time ago, I remember,
And I would do it again, but set down
This set down
This: were we led all that way for
Birth or Death? There was a Birth, certainly
We had evidence and no doubt. I had seen birth and death,
But had thought they were different; this Birth was
Hard and bitter agony for us, like Death, our death.
We returned to our places, these Kingdoms,
But no longer at ease here, in the old dispensation,
With an alien people clutching their gods.
I should be glad of another death.
© T S Eliot. All rights reserved

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

First Sunday after Christmas Sermon

Written by a guest preacher...

A Christmas Sermon

By St. Gregory of Nazianzus(AD 380)

Christ is born, glorify Him. Christ from heaven, go out to meet Him. Christ on earth, be exalted. Sing to the Lord all the whole earth; and that I may join both in one word, let the heavens rejoice, and let the earth be glad, for Him who is of heaven and then of earth. Christ in the flesh, rejoice with trembling and with joy; with trembling because of your sins, with joy because of your hope.

Again, the darkness is past; again Light is made; again Egypt is punished with darkness; again Israel is enlightened by a pillar. The people who sat in the darkness of ignorance, let them see the great Light full of knowledge. Old things have passed away, behold all things have become new. The letter gives way, the Spirit comes to the front. The shadows flee away, the truth comes in on them. Melchizedek is concluded. He who was without Mother becomes without Father (without mother of His former state, without father of His second). The laws of nature are upset; the world above must be filled. Christ commands it, let us not set ourselves against Him. O clap your hands together all you people, because unto us a Child is born, and a Son given unto us, whose government is upon His shoulder (for with the cross it is raised up), and His name is called The Angel of the Great Counsel of the Father. Let John cry, prepare the way of the Lord; I too will cry the power of this Day. He who is not carnal is Incarnate; the Son of God becomes the Son of Man, Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and today, and forever. Let the Jews be offended, let the Greeks deride; let heretics talk until their tongues ache. Then shall they believe, when they see Him ascending into heaven; and if not then, yet when they see Him coming out of heaven and sitting as Judge.

This is our present Festival; it is this which we are celebrating today, the Coming of God to Man, that we might go forth, or rather (for this is the more proper expression) that we might go back to God - that putting off of the old man, we might put on the new; and that as we died in Adam, so we might live in Christ, being born with Christ and crucified with Him and buried with Him and rising with Him. For I must undergo the beautiful conversion, and as the painful succeeded the more blissful, so must the more blissful come out of the painful. For where sin abounded grace did much more abound; and if a taste condemned us, how much more does the passion of Christ justify us? Therefore let us keep the Feast, not after the manner of a heathen festival, but after a godly sort; not after the way of the world, but in a fashion above the world; not as our own, but as belonging to Him who is ours, or rather as our master's; not as of weakness, but as of healing; not as of creation, but of re-creation.

- Posted using BlogPress from my mystical iPad!

When is enough...enough?

Written by the Rev. Ellen Huber, prior to Christmas...

Is it all done yet? The decorating? The shopping? The food? The wrapping? The cards? Is the house clean, do the children have their holiday clothes at the ready? What about the pets, are they clipped and coiffed?

And you? Have you checked those fingernails lately? Does your holiday outfit hide those pounds you have decided to keep until spring? Are you done worrying yet? Worrying about whether the gifts are enough, will they be liked? Will others think you were generous? How is the bank account? Strained? Overdrawn? Are you hiding your stress?

And what about the loved ones in your life who are ill, have you worried about them enough? Is everything getting done at work? Is it done right? Are you procrastinating to get other things done? And are you worrying about that? Holiday time can be triage time, but even if we take that approach, chances are we are still trying to get it all done, and look happy and organized to everyone around us. It’s a lot of pressure.

And yet. It will never be enough. And it will never be perfect. Why? Because imperfection is part of life. There will always be something broken, something dirty, something wrinkled or stained. There will always be traffic, the unexpected weather, the unkind or judgmental remark from a friend or loved one that upsets us. It’s part of life. It’s natural and normal and to be expected.

The problem with this part of life, is that it stresses us out. Imperfection makes us anxious, possibly angry. We want to fix it. And it affects our relationships and our joy. We forget so easily that the holidays, no matter what our tradition, are about love. Sharing. And that thing none of us seems to have enough of…time. We forget that in a month most of us won’t remember what gifts we got, or gave. We won’t remember if we got all the decorations up, or even if we got our nails done before the holidays.

What we will remember, is how we felt. What we will remember, is how we made others feel. There is a saying that “no one will remember what you said, or what you did, they will remember how you made them feel.” And that can get complicated, of course, because we all have different expectations about what others should do to let us know we are loved.

Some of us DO see love expressed in expensive gifts, others of us feel loved when someone helps us out, still others of us feel loved when we are given time and space, while others of us feel loved when we are hugged and listened to. Sometimes, we feel loved when someone says “sorry,” or “I forgive you.”

Love is complicated. Which is why all religious traditions give us something we are rarely if ever able to give ourselves, or anyone else. The gift of perfect love. Love that forgives all things. Love that heals. Love that does not judge. Love that is perfect. Love that is enough.

And so dear reader, no matter what your beliefs, this is the season where we all look for that perfect love. We look for it for ourselves. We look to give it to others. And I can tell you, that the only perfect thing in this world that truly IS enough, is that love that you seek. The good news, is that it is already inside of you, just waiting to be found. Just waiting to be shared. And it is enough. And it is perfect.

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A Football Prayer for New Years Day

A Confessional Prayer
(to be said before watching football games)

Most merciful God,
Forgive us for what we are about to do;

For our blood-curdling cries,
Lord, have mercy;
For our lust for violence,
Lord, have mercy;
For our emulation of military conquest,
Lord, have mercy;
For our favor to the strong,
Lord, have mercy;
For our scorn upon the weak,
Lord, have mercy;
For the vengeance which we seek
upon enemies whom we oppose for the most arbitrary of reasons,
Lord, have mercy.

We acknowledge and bewail our mortal sins and weaknesses;
We are troubled by these dark comparisons:
the football stadium and the coliseum;
the fans and the pagan mobs;
the star athletes and the demigods;
the linebackers and the gladiators;
the cheerleaders and the furies;
the commentators and the chorus;
the corporations and the slave owners.

We can only hope that you see, as we do,
that this is only a game;
and that you haven't lost your sense of humor.
Despite appearances to the contrary, our heart remains faithful to you.
Even as we glory in the spectacle of our football enemies
being pounded into the dust, we will strive to remember you.

God, be with those who will taste dirt this day.
Heal those who will be injured;
Console the losers with gratitude for the privilege of having played;
Ennoble the victors with gentle reminders of their mortality;
And show your favor toward all contestants
Who this day will shed their blood and break their bones
for our trivial sakes, AMEN.

Written by The Rev. Matthew Lawrence

This prayer was read over Michigan Public Radio twice: on the day before, and immediately preceding their broadcast of the first game of the Wolverine's 1998-99 season.

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The Holy Name of Jesus

All Jewish boys were circumcised and named on the 8th day of their life, and so, one week after Christmas, on January 1st, we celebrate the feast of the Holy Name of Jesus:

Eternal Father, who gave to your incarnate Son the holy name of Jesus to be the sign of our salvation: Plant in every heart, we pray, the love of him who is the Savior of the world, our Lord Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, in glory everlasting. Amen.

The Holy Gospel: Luke 2:15-21

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The Gate of the Year

God Knows by Minnie Louise Haskins (1908)

And I said to the man who stood at the gate of the year: “Give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown.”

And he replied:
“Go out into the darkness and put your hand into the Hand of God. That shall be to you better than light and safer than a known way.”

So I went forth, and finding the Hand of God, trod gladly into the night. And He led me towards the hills and the breaking of day in the lone East.

So heart be still:
What need our little life
Our human life to know,
If God hath comprehension?
In all the dizzy strife
Of things both high and low,
God hideth His intention.
God knows. His will
Is best. The stretch of years
Which wind ahead, so dim
To our imperfect vision,
Are clear to God. Our fears
Are premature; In Him,
All time hath full provision.
Then rest: until
God moves to lift the veil
From our impatient eyes,
When, as the sweeter features
Of Life’s stern face we hail,
Fair beyond all surmise
God’s thought around His creatures
Our mind shall fill.

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